216: Merch by Amazon: $53k in T-Shirt Profits in 10 Hours a Week

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I’m excited to introduce you to a new Buy Buttons opportunity under the Amazon ecommerce umbrella. It’s called Merch by Amazon, a print-on-demand service for t-shirts and other merchandise.

My wife and I have already made our first sales on this creative way to make money on Amazon has become our latest side hustle obsession.

To help me explore this business model, I invited Elaine Heney on the program. She’s an app entrepreneur, a former Amazon FBA seller (a biz she actually sold), and last year she sold over $128,000 worth of t-shirts through Merch by Amazon program, of which $53k was profit. You can follow along with Elaine’s Merch adventures at MerchEntrepreneur.com.

The advantage Amazon has over other print-on-demand sites is their massive daily organic traffic. Elaine doesn’t even need to do any marketing to promote her shirts, and using their interface is as easy as uploading a design, choosing colors, and clicking a button to list your shirts.

There are no monthly fees, and no inventory risk.

In this episode, Elaine takes you through the steps you need to take to start an account on the Merch by Amazon program. She shares how she finds graphic designers to help with her t-shirt designs, how to use the Merch by Amazon platform, and some of her best tips for creating designs that will sell well.

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  • The processes Elaine used to upload more than 6,000 t-shirt designs in one-year while working just 10 hours a week.
  • How Elaine turned over more than $128k in merch sales in 2016.
  • How to get started with Merch by Amazon.
  • How Elaine comes up with new ideas and designs for her t-shirts. (One of our strategies has been to “turn memes into Merch”; one of many ways to make money on Facebook.)
  • How to use the Merch by Amazon platform in a few easy steps.
  • Why you don’t need to have any graphic design skills to run a successful merch business. (Tools like Canva make it easy!)
  • How to deal with copycats stealing your designs.
  • Which other t-shirt selling platforms are also good for a side hustle income.
  • Elaine’s #1 tip for Side Hustle Nation.

Links and Resources

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

32 thoughts on “216: Merch by Amazon: $53k in T-Shirt Profits in 10 Hours a Week”

  1. Thank you so much for this episode! I haven’t listened to SideHustleNation much, but I definitely be listening more now if you provide this mush AMAZING information in one episode! I have been researching different ways to make some passive income without a lot of upfront costs and this hit the nail on the head! I didn’t even know this existed until today, I already applied and can’t wait to start designing shirts! Thank you Nick and Elaine so much for your insights!

  2. One of the most frustrating ventures I’ve tested out… granted, I was not using Amazon for the t-shirts, I was using Teespring and Teechip. I had marginal success on a few campaigns, but could never really hit a stride.

    It can take dozens and dozens of tries to get a single sale on a campaign, if not more, and it’s difficult watching the marketing dollars disappear when the campaigns don’t work. Everyone seems to be vying for the same niches, using similar designs. And when you try and learn how to improve what you’re doing, very few who are actually having success will help because they don’t want to negatively impact their sales. So you get a bunch of people who are having marginal success offering guesses when you ask questions. And you also have to be careful when asking questions about designs because of the copy cats.

    Then there’s the copyright infringement side of it, which makes it difficult to capitalize on a lot of current pop culture trends. Even when you try and avoid trademarks and blatant infringement, you can have a design that is getting sales and then it gets shut down by Teespring, and you lose all the marketing dollars you put into it.

    It’s probably still working for some people, but like with a lot of marketing out there, it sure seems like it’s only working for a small group of people. And it certainly seems like a tough market to get into and have success in these days. Maybe I’m wrong, which is probably often the case :)

    Glad to see Elaine having success. And hats off to the others who are making a living doing it.

  3. Really nice episode Nick and Elaine.
    Just wondering though where did the 67,000$ go (120,000 revenue – 53,000 profit? Was that to pay for designs or advertising or…?

  4. Thanks so much for this extremely informative episode, Nick and Elaine! It really resonated with me because it is exactly the type of opportunity that I dreamed about. But I had no idea that Merch by Amazon existed, or even that print-on-demand existed. I’ve applied for my invite from Amazon and I’m now hard at work designing T-Shirts (learning about GIMP as I go) and also learning as much as I can about Merch By Amazon and other POD sites. I’m a visual artist and can’t wait to transfer my skills to this! Thanks again!!

  5. Great episode and nice work Elaine but I would really like to see the products from all the people making so much money on Selling T-shirts. I always see “make all this money”, “this is how”, “buy my book” or whatever but never see their stores or products.

  6. This was a great episode. This is something I’m able to do for free, and with only a little time here and there. I haven’t been approved for merch yet, but I’ve already gotten a sale on red bubble. Just wanted to say thanks for the show

  7. Does anyone happen to know what shirts Amazon Merch offers? Brand? Model#? Colors?

    I’ve looked for more information and can’t seem to find anything.

    • When you setup a new design, you can choose “standard” or “premium” but there’s no specific brand option. They seem to switch it up between brands from time to time. I’ve seen Bella & Canvas, American Apparel, Anvil and others.

  8. Another very informative episode! I downloaded the PDF Highlight Reel and wanted to clear something up. The idea of partnering with groups and charities is a brilliant way to drive sales. But you don’t have to set that particular item to “Sample” in order to give your partner(s) a unique tracking code. Amazon allows each affiliate account to set up 100 individual tracking ids. When you grab the affiliate link, just select that partner’s tracking id. Then you can group the earnings report by tracking ids to see what sales each one generated.

  9. $53,000 in profits for 6000 designs? That’s less than $10 a design. Sounds like a business that just clogs up the store (and world) with junk and brings no real value to the world.

    • That’s assuming that every single design will sell the exact same number of T-shirets, which isn’t the case. The vast majority of designs will never get to print; any designs not selling after 90 days are removed. Most people will make their money from a tiny percentage of the designs they upload; the key is to work out why those designs are selling and then make more along the same lines.

  10. Wonderful information. I’ve been seeking a side hustle for a long time to supplement the income from my part-time job that won’t cost me an arm and a leg to start. This looks very do-able, and I have many ideas for slogans. Thanks for this!

  11. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for the interesting piece.
    You didn’t mentioned zazzledotcom in your merch-by-amazon.pdf file.
    Does it mean Zazle is a ‘yesterday’ stuff?
    OK. I heard some successful stories how sellers had made $10000-15000 for a month. I tried with Z too. It wasn’t so great, I just made 30+ bucks which are still there. LOL.
    To be honest, I didn’t rush much with it. On the other hand, some people said me products on Z are overpriced.
    I’m gonna try with amazon merch.

  12. Great job Elaine! She’s a true hustler, Amazon made easy for people who use website like teespring and other tshirt selling platforms to sell their tshirts without worrying about paying for traffic, you only need a good design to sell.

  13. Awesome episode!
    Just came across Elaine and her work. She’s getting after it.
    I just started getting serious about Merch by Amazon in June and I’m up to 2K per month now. It’s an ideal side hustle with a LOT of upside. Excited to see where Amazon takes this platform! :)

  14. Thanks for the ‘Elaine’s tips & strategies’ download. Please make a correction in the PDF document. The specs for the image upload are not 4500×4500 pixels. The correct resolution required is 4500 x 5400 pixels. It will give you a vertical rectangle and not a square.

  15. If you’re in MBA and not using MerchInformer you are missing out.. I’ve been using it for over a year and it has really boosted my sales. I still have a coupon that has a couple of uses left, so make sure to snag it before it expires. The code is “Mizifc” without quotes and will give you a 15% discount. Keep merchin’ yall!

  16. I’m calling some bullsh*t here.

    I already do Internet marketing and have for years. I just checked out the merchresearch (dot) com thing which forwards to merchinformer (dot) com. All it does is expose your good ideas to a potential third party competitor. You do not need to use this site to search the t-shirts. You can just do the same search at Amazon.com using their own regular search box. Every search you make through this third party site is just going to be logged and probably evaluated and used for competing against you before you even get your idea going if it’s any good.

    Steer clear and just use the Amazon search box.

  17. Would be curious to hear what Elaine’s doing these days with Merch, especially now in 2019 as Merch has become more competitive. I used to listen to her Merch Entrepreneur podcast but she doesn’t seem to be updating it that often and when she does it’s just a plug for ClickFunnels. Seems like a lot of the early MBA success stories have left the scene :(

  18. Wonderful, Do you have any more tips for doing print on demand in 2021? I just start to use insightfactory for finding trends in redbubble, I just started out and making 4 or 5 designs a week.
    Can you cover how to get the most out of their redbubble trend tool?
    I go to their website https://insightfactory.app/redbubble-trends/ every day, and take a look at that day trends, and work on the ones with low competition.
    If you could create a guide for it that would be awesome

  19. I read this back when it first came out, got all inspired and applied. Luckily I was rejected. I say luckily because like everything on line these days print on demand is overcrowded. Only a few make it big-time and I would have wasted my time.
    I don’t want to nitpic and be negative because I admire Side Hustle Nation and like what Nick is doing here. (I still read many of your articles Nick, you’ve had some great stuff on.)
    It would be interesting to hear how those who got started with Merch in the early days got on.

    • How do you know nothing works unless you try? Merch is just like anything else. If you are good at design and have some clever sayings, you will make money. IT’S NOT JUST DUMB LUCK.


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